The first ever Central California Athletic League title is staying in town after the Turlock High varsity girls water polo team closed out the season with an unblemished league record, following Monday’s 7-4 win over Pitman High from the Pride’s pool.
“I am so very proud of the girls and so excited because I don’t think they knew what they were capable of and we progressively got better and stronger after every game,” said Turlock head coach Anne Cornell. “We addressed the things we needed to improve on to be where we are at. This team worked so well together and what one didn’t do, the other did and they balanced each other out. There was no drama and they started to communicate so well down the stretch.”
The win gave the Bulldogs a perfect 10-0 CCAL posting while Pitman ends at 5-5, tying Modesto High and earning a tiebreaker game on Wednesday to play for the final postseason berth and third place in the CCAL.
“It’s crazy but we are looking forward to it and Modesto is going to come out ready to play,” said Pitman head coach Michaela Richter. “The girls are prepared to come and fight till the end because these girls have never been to a section title game Tough loss tonight but looking forward, we are excited for what’s to happen.”
Pitman snapped a two-game win streak prior to Monday’s game and end the year with a 10-14 overall record.
Turlock’s overall record stands at 16-6.
Monday started off sluggish for the Pride who saw their offensive attack hit the post over half a dozen times.
Turlock junior Kianna Hesse opened up the game when she scored the first goal with 6:16 left in the first.
Sophomore Joelle Lok (Pitman) then put the score even at 1-1 just 78 seconds later.
In a 70-second frame in the first period, Pitman hit the post two times before Lok struck her second goal of the game with 1:40 remaining in the first to take a 2-1 lead.
The back and forth battle continued as Hesse struck the back of the net 11 seconds after and tied the game at 2-2 heading into the second.
Emmerson Stempson of Turlock then started the Bulldogs rally in the second with 3:22 on the clock to go up 3-2.
From there, they went on to outscore Pitman, 5-2, to close out the game.
Sadie Bigler scored the fourth goal for Turlock with 1:42 left till halftime and Ruth Ramirez (Pitman) followed up with the third goal just 14 seconds later to make it 4-3 at the half.
Pitman kept striking at the back of the net, but the shots continued to hit the post.
“Yeah, that post saves lives just not ours,” said Richter. “I feel we played very good defense and held Turlock to a very low score, lower that anyone has in the CCAL, we just need to learn how to put the ball away.”
Madison Howry of Turlock scored the only goal of the third and made it 5-3 by the start of the fourth.
Bigler and teammate Lauren Stewart scored the sixth and seventh goals, respectively, before Lok finished her hat trick with three seconds left to end it at 7-4.
“We started off the season not knowing what to expect because we don’t play the Modesto schools,” said Cornell. “We didn’t know what to do and so we learned after and during each game to see what every team has and to figure out how to stop their top players and counter. We want to build off this win and to be stronger and better and score more goals in the playoffs.”
“Any home town rivalry we obviously want to win, but the girls have been great and we had a rough start to the season trying to figure who goes where and how we fit together,” said Richter. “But they never gave up. We had tough losses to Gregori and Turlock, which was a rough way to start, but towards the end and coming into this game I wanted them to play well and I think they did. If we would have put some shots away, life would have been different.”
Turlock advances to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs while Pitman will face Modesto High in a tiebreaker for third place and the opportunity to earn the final postseason spot.
The match is slated for a time yet to be determined from Downey High on Wednesday.